If you’re planning an IoT initiative, you’ve probably asked yourself: “Does a custom solution make sense or should we go with an off-the-shelf system?” The question is not if you should build your ecosystem with custom software components, but when.
In this article, we’ll walk through the best way to build your IoT initiative. We’ll explain when an off-the-shelf solution might be best, and when to migrate over to a custom solution. And we’ll point out all the unknowns in between so you can ensure your company will have a successful roadmap to more revenue.
Start Strong With Market Research
A successful IoT system connects your product or service directly with your customers. But before commercial rollout, you have to be sure your IoT initiative will meet your business goals. Building software is a high-stakes investment, and before any tech legwork, we recommend conducting rigorous market research. We’ve launched hundreds of qualitative and quantitative studies for consumer product brands including Bridgestone and Farm Rich.
Test Your Idea With a Proof of Concept (PoC)
Once you’ve determined your product’s viability in the marketplace, a great next step is to test the initiative with an IoT development kit. A dev kit gives your team a low-cost, low-risk entry into IoT with sensors, tutorials, WiFI module, and more. Leveraging a dev kit in this Proof of Concept (PoC) phase means your team is free to quickly test connectivity, transfer data, and gather user feedback without significant financial risk.
Say you’re a large water heater and air conditioner manufacturer with a business goal of better training the third-party contractors who sell your products. You want to build a tool that makes these contractors more inclined to recommend your products over competitors’. You decide to build an in-person training facility at headquarters, with sensors on 10 products that offer data on how third-party contractors use those products. In a scenario like this one, with sensors on just 10 products and not hundreds, it makes sense to leverage an IoT dev kit rather than commit to building a suite of custom tools. (Particle and Azure offer strong dev kits that we recommend to our customers.)
If you’re a company with a large, growing user base with thousands of data points, it’s important to be constantly thinking ahead. It still makes sense to leverage an IoT dev kit in the PoC phase, but you’ll want to think about migrating your tested product into a custom ecosystem.
Move to the Three Major Players to Commercialize
If you’re planning for long-term commercialization, moving production to a quality cloud infrastructure ensures that your system will scale with your data and growing customer base. We always recommend using one of the big three: Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, or Amazon Web Services (AWS). Another benefit of the big three: Most PoC solutions, such as Particle, host their software solutions on one of them, allowing your team to make a smooth transition.
When building custom software, if the moving parts work together properly, you’ll have an impressive ecosystem that you can then sell. Web applications, mobile applications, backend, and cloud need to function cohesively to support a working ecosystem, and a strong cloud implementation will ultimately bring you the most success. Your cloud platform must be built to scale, independently – and not as a whole, but as pieces. If your platform is scalable and not too tightly coupled, it can support building features and third-party integrations.
Expertise that Ensures You Meet Your Goals
Your company’s growth proves your ability to compete in the marketplace, and building out an IoT initiative is the next logical step. There’s more to it than meets the eye, though, so for maximum return on your IoT investment, leverage our experience strategizing, architecting, and building out a custom ecosystem that defines the roadmap, anticipates any bumps, and ensures your goals are met every step of the way.